Itoje enjoying mission to US
Maro Itoje sauntered up the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, suppressing any urge to sprint in the style of Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky films.
“I didn’t run. I don’t like to waste too much energy,” the Saracens lock said.
That energy will be needed for today’s Premiership fixture against Newcastle Falcons in the Talen Energy Stadium here, as Saracens look to bounce back after last weekend’s defeat by Bath.
Itoje understands why the game is taking place in the United States. “There are a number of reasons behind us coming to America,” he said.
“Obviously, the main one is to grow the game globally. America is the largest economy in the world so, from a financial point of view, it makes sense for the powersthat-be to get on this market.” He added: “This is not their natural sport here. From talking to people, you notice that they’re interested and receptive of rugby. They all think we’re crazy because we don’t have pads but I tell them we’ll be OK.
“Rugby’s growing and it’s been growing at an exponential rate since it turned professional. In terms of the power, the pace, the skill, but also in terms of the team behind the team – the corporate team behind the organisations. As time goes by, rugby will naturally grow to become a bigger sport globally.”
If the US is to be stirred, it could take players who can transcend the sport to help make that wake-up call.
Itoje knows what gives athletes broader appeal and speaks of those who look beyond their sport. “The sportsmen I am more drawn to are the ones who are not only incredible athletes, but the ones who have something more to them.”